My survival hinged on his love in a way I couldn’t appreciate until he’d left. The days were only days. Time served. Tolerable only because, once past, they would bring us closer to being together again.
I glanced at the clock, the only object of interest in the otherwise lifeless room that I shared with an absent roommate. Late afternoon light came in through the bay windows. They were an exceptional feature for the room, but the old campus was filled with houses like mine and rooms like this one that had hosted the youth of New England’s elite for decades—centuries actually.
Being here nearly by myself the past couple days had been strange. An unusual calm fell over places that were otherwise filled with the hustle and bustle of students and faculty. The rare quiet, combined with the void of coursework, had made missing Cameron almost unbearable. Of all the days of missing him, today—with no purpose and no distractions—had been the worst.
I wanted him back with a gnawing hunger and was silently counting down the minutes until he would be. A persistent fear fed by my own insecurities and the break in our recent communications kept interrupting the fantasy of having him in my arms again. Would he still feel the same way for me after all this time? From the stories I’d heard, few people came out of basic training the way they went in. I had nothing but a handful of letters and a few abrupt phone calls to reassure me that he would return to me as the same Cameron I remembered.
Over the past couple weeks, I’d spent less time missing him and more time worrying. But when all was said and done, I was the first and only person he wanted to see when the Army granted him leave. Since then, I’d held tightly to our shared memories when the apprehension of losing what we’d had together took hold. I quietly prayed enough would be left between us, enough time together, to keep us solid through the commitments that would keep us apart for weeks more.
I startled at a sudden knock. Only one person could be at my door. I checked the clock again. He was early. I hadn’t expected that. I got up from the bed, tossing my book to the side. My heartbeat sped, and I straightened my white sundress, my one decent looking dress. I tugged out my ponytail and let my hair fall loose down my back. I fussed a minute longer until he knocked again. Energy and excitement coursed through me, and I took a deep breath before opening the door.
There he stood, almost too gorgeous to be real. I released the doorknob and found my other hand, twisting my fingers in tremulous anticipation. He looked different. His familiar blue eyes bore into me, but the Texas sun had darkened his olive skin. He appeared at least twenty pounds lighter. The strong lines of his jaw and cheekbones were sharper. Between that and his nearly black hair trimmed into a short crew cut, he looked older. I should have expected changes in his physical appearance, but an irrational worry tempered the flood of emotion that rushed over me at the sight of him.
Did he still feel the same way? Could he have changed this much on the inside too?
Struggling for the right words, I opened my mouth to speak. His lips quirked into a small smile, setting off a relieved one of my own. He stepped in and caught my fidgeting hands in his, rubbing his thumbs over the white of my knuckles until I relaxed. The warmth in his eyes melted away any lingering doubts. I exhaled a shaky breath.
“Come here,” I whispered, still afraid to break the silence and unable to do justice to how overwhelming being in his presence again was.
I stepped back, pulling him after me. He followed and once inside curved his arm around my waist, tightening his hold until we were firmly chest-to-chest. My body molded to the hard lines of his. My breaths came fast, my entire body responding to his closeness. His gaze locked me in. He traced my lips with the pad of his thumb, his smile fading as he did.
“I missed you so much, Maya. Every day…”
Out of habit, I hooked my hand around his nape. I mourned the overgrown locks that would have tangled between my fingers, but none of that mattered now. Changed or not, he was here. His heart, the heat of his body pressed against me. This was all I’d wanted. My love in the flesh. It all felt like a dream. Maybe I’d wished for him so hard and for so long that somehow he’d come true. The separation had been almost unbearable. I couldn’t—wouldn’t—consider how we’d face it again.
“I can’t believe you’re really here.” My voice wavered.
He feathered his fingertips over my cheek, calming me. I released a tentative breath. I went to kiss him, but before I could meet his lips, he stilled me, gently cupping my cheek.
“I love you,” he whispered, his soft breath dancing on my lips.
My heart twisted, a bittersweet ache pulsing through my chest with each beat. We’d written it, said it so many times, worn it out. The profoundness of those words from his lips, now, nearly knocked me down. My entire being warmed from the inside out. Possessed with a fervency to prove how much I felt it too, I lifted to my toes and kissed him. Our lips met, then our tongues, tangling, teasing, and tasting.
“Maya,” he breathed, breaking our contact with the words.
“What?” I got lost in his eyes, never wanting any of this to end. I’d never loved him more. My soul was brimming for everything I felt for this man.
He hesitated, seeming to search for words as I had before. Before I could press him, he pulled me into another wild kiss, deep and passionate. I moaned, losing my ability to think clearly as our bodies shifted over each other. A hand slid down my thigh and back up, cupping my butt over the thin cotton of my panties. He toyed with the hem before pushing them down my hips. They fell to my knees, and I kicked them off the rest of the way.
He pushed the thin straps over my shoulders, and my dress fell to the floor. His heated gaze roved over my nakedness. Until now, his eyes hadn’t left mine. My skin burned under his touch as he caressed down my arm, over the jut of my hip, over my ass to press me to him firmly again.
I roamed my hands over the hardened planes of his stomach. Eager to see and feel all of him, I shoved his shirt up and he tugged it off. God, he was gorgeous. Every muscle was more pronounced, taut and lean. I ran my fingers over the curves of his abdomen, over his pectorals, and down the corded muscles of his arms. I bit my lip, unable to hide my smile.
“You’re like a different person.” Physically anyway, he was a new man. He’d been gorgeous before, but this was icing on the cake...with a cherry on top.
“I’m not all different,” he muttered.
“I hope not.” I wanted nothing more than to find out for myself. I wanted all of him, now, at once, and for as long as possible. I kissed his chest, dragging my tongue over the hard muscles straining under his tightened skin. Slowly I lowered to my knees. I looked up at him, emboldened by the heated lust in his eyes. Unfastening his pants, I tugged them low enough to access the hard length of his erection loosely reined in through his boxer briefs.
He flinched under the cotton. I breathed hot air through them and traced the outline of the head with my tongue. I hooked my fingers over the band, ready to release every delicious inch of him.
“Wait.” His voice strained.
“I want you.”
He caught me by the hair. “It’s been too long. I won’t last with your mouth on me. Come here.”
He lowered next to me. Sitting on the floor with his back to the bed, he guided me to straddle him. A fleeting shyness warmed me as I spread my legs wide astride him, my nakedness on display.
His lips parted. His gaze journeyed over my curves, his hands following its path. “Jesus, Maya. You’re so beautiful.”
My cheeks heated. “You’re just saying that because you’ve been starved and tortured for months.”
“No, I’m saying that because you’re the most gorgeous creature I’ve ever laid eyes on.” He leaned in and kissed me, wrapping his arms tightly around me. “Mmm, missed these sweet lips.”
He grazed over my ribs and over my breasts, squeezing them and teasing the tender tips. “And these.”
His eyes darkened. His touch blazed a path between my thighs. Tantalizing me with light touches, he sifted through my curls to tease the wet folds of my arousal.
“I missed this too,” he whispered, licking his lower lip.
I gasped and leaned eagerly into his touch, wanting more. I brought us chest-to-chest, rabid for the feel of his skin against mine. I wrapped my arms around him and kissed him frantically.
“I want you inside me.” I jerked my hips against his touch, a silent plea for more. Heat rushed over me, my lips tingling from the urgency of our kissing.
His fingers answered, dipping into me. I clenched around him and moaned at the penetration, rocking into his hand.
“More.” I wanted so much more.
He slipped another finger inside and massaged the tender flesh, fucking me gently until I grew slick around him. He rubbed the rush of moisture over my clit and back inside. Flames of desire licked over my skin. My hips pumped against his deliberately slow movements.
“Cam, please. I’m going crazy.”
“I want you ready for me.”
“I’ve been ready for weeks.”
He lifted me slightly and pushed down his pants and boxers, revealing the thick virile cock I’d fantasized about more times than I could remember. If sex with Cameron were a drug, I was fully prepared to overdose. I’d never wanted anything so damn bad.
I shivered in anticipation, circling his hot flesh with both hands, milking him. A bead of moisture glistened at the tip. My mouth watered. I wanted to taste him. We’d have time for that. Right now I needed him inside me before I lost my ever-loving mind.
He sucked in a sharp breath. I took the cue, satisfied that he was as eager as I was. I hovered over him, notching the blunt tip to my opening, and guided him inside.
He caught my hip, stilling my movement. His eyes were serious, the cool blues dilated. “Go slow. I don’t want to hurt you.”
I complied, resisting the urge to drop down and have all of him inside me at once. Inch by inch he filled me, his gaze never leaving mine. I shifted from desire to relief to pain, back to frenzied need, every transition on display as he watched me work his body into mine.
He kissed my lips gently, breathing in my tiny moans and gasps. I’d taken him to the root, and my body stretched to accommodate him. I tensed against the simultaneous bite of his depth and urge to allay it by riding him hard and fast until I forgot my own name.
His hands traveled up my ribs and down to where my ass met his thighs and squeezed gently.
“Perfect,” he murmured. “You have no idea how amazing you feel.”
“We fit,” I whispered, tracing the curve of his ear with my tongue. I kissed his neck, sucking the salt from his skin. I filled my lungs with him, intoxicated on the scent, all musk and man.
He lifted and lowered me again slowly, relieving me of the effort to decide how and when to move. I whimpered, overwhelmed with sensation. Unable to escape the searing pleasure of being filled after such an absence, I clung to him. I gripped his shoulders, hoping they could anchor me through the impending storm.
Our bodies fell into a steady rhythm. The flutter of desire that started low in my belly grew with every stroke. Bold and demanding, I kissed him like the starved creature I’d become with distance.
He shifted his hips so I could take him deeper. I threw my head back and cried out as pleasure took its hold. My breasts became heavy and tender as he sucked my nipples to hard hypersensitive points. I gasped and tightened around his penetration, increasing the friction of every thrust.
He worked me over his cock until my grip on reality began to slip. I wanted to make this last for both of us, but he was launching my body into overload. Sweat misted over my skin.
I groaned. I needed an orgasm like I needed my next breath. I matched his thrusts, leveraging them with my weight to drive him deeper. My body was slick around him. He pumped quickly and easily. Faster, harder. My mind was lost in a flurry of silent wants and demands. Anything to bring us closer.
“Maya, look at me.” He wove his fingers through my hair, bringing my focus back to him.
Our gazes locked on each other, our breathing ragged and uneven. Something in his half-lidded eyes and the firm set of his jaw as he thrust inside me broke through my single-minded need to come. The fierceness in his next thrust robbed me of air. My jaw dropped in a soundless cry. I thought my heart might explode if he held me this way much longer, but I couldn’t escape… Didn’t want to.
“Cam.” The quiet plea signaled a certain surrender. I was giving him everything now. My body, my heart, my trust.
“I’ve got you.” The rasp of his promise sent a tingle over my skin.
Cameron wasn’t only fucking me. He was loving me with every touch. Caressing my lips with his, guiding my motions with a firm grasp at my hip. Churning inside me with a fierce pressure that had me on the brink of rapture, he satisfied every raw need, inside and out.
He licked the pad of his thumb and rubbed tiny expert circles over my clit. I shifted over him, thrashing and grabbing as the tension mounted within.
“Oh my God,” I cried.
“That’s it. Stay with me.” He held me tight, holding my focus and forcing me to pinpoint all my energy on his eyes, now dark and intense.
“I’m going to come… Oh, fuck.” I squeezed my eyes closed, unable to focus on anything. I could only feel.
And I felt everything.
Everywhere we met clashed and clenched, as if something precious might slip away if we didn’t hold on for dear life. His cock lengthened, throbbing and rigid, as he drove his pelvis deep into my sensitive tissues. I dug my nails into his skin, raking down his chest as mindless release took over.
“Fuck,” he growled.
My eyes flew open. The sight of him losing that last thread of control did me in. The orgasm, the weight of our separation and our love, and the acute need to be fucked like I’d never been fucked before, crashed down onto me like a tidal wave. Pleasure and relief racked my body with a string of violent shudders. I screamed. I grabbed feebly at the bed behind him, fisting the fabric in an attempt to ground myself to earth when my body was soaring with delirious pleasure.
“I love you. Love you so much.” I suppressed a sob as the words left me. Tears prickled the corners of my eyes as I came back down.
His hips arched off the floor, extending the moment as he chased his own release, setting me off again. He swallowed my last cry with a desperate kiss. Uttering a feral moan into my mouth, he froze and then came, the warm rush filling me.
Weakened, I leaned back on his raised knees, letting all the tension go. His arms wrapped around my waist, and his damp forehead rested between my heaving breasts as I struggled for air.
I held him to me, so grateful for everything. For Cameron, for this moment, for whatever miracle brought him into my life. I swallowed over the painful knot in my throat. I felt stripped. I wanted to cry and rid myself of all the fears and doubts and worry that I’d carried before today. I wanted to be rid of all of it, until only our love remained.
He lifted his head, reflecting a look of complete and utter emotional wreckage.
“Jesus, Maya. That was…”
“Amazing.” I finished the thought. “Amazing” was a weak description of what had just happened between us. Epic and earth-shattering also fit the bill. Rug burn-inducing even, I thought, vaguely aware of the sting on my knees where they met the area rug protecting us from the wood floors. I didn’t care.
I feathered my fingers over his skin, still drunk on our passion but, like a true addict, still wanting more. He reached up to kiss me. Our soft lazy kisses quickly became urgent, stoking the warm embers of my desire anew. He thickened inside me.
“Let’s do that again,” he rasped.
* * *
We had the week to ourselves, to simply be together, which was all we really needed or wanted.
While my dorm mates frolicked on Southern beaches for spring break, we spent our days in bed. At night we’d walk downtown, have dinner, and get tipsy. We’d rush home so we could make love again or fuck wildly and loudly, our uninhibited sex sounds echoing through the mercifully empty halls of the house.
We soaked up every precious minute and talked endlessly about the future we wanted together. Marriage and babies and happily ever after. With so much of the future unknown, we let ourselves dream and imagine the life we could have. I had no idea when or how our future would take shape, but I prayed that when the time came, I could give him everything he wanted.
As the days passed, our touches lingered. Our kisses were deeper and the wild fucking gave way to tender, unhurried lovemaking. I let the tears come, finally, and he kissed them away, never asking why. He held me, loved me, and helped me forget, if only for a moment, that we were running out of time.
As hard as we tried, loving slowly couldn’t delay the passing of time. We walked along the edge of the campus, and I tried not to think about the dwindling days. Soon he’d fly back, and I’d return to my monotonous and work-filled life as a student. I leaned against his shoulder, wishing I could freeze time or kidnap him. Surely my roommate wouldn’t mind a third.
The pond sparkled with moonlight as it fed into the river. Cameron slowed, turning to me. Held my hands in his. I looked up at him, mesmerized by how his eyes glittered in the semi-darkness. He was beautiful. Perfect. And at least for now, all mine.
“I’m fine,” I lied. I didn’t want to waste time talking about the inevitable.
“I don’t want to go either,” he said, echoing my thoughts.
I stared at the ground between us. “I can’t even think about it.”
“We’ll get through it. After I get through tech school, everything will be easier, I promise.”
My heart ached at the thought of enduring another long separation. “Summer will be here soon,” I said, offering a ray of hope, but I swallowed the tears that threatened. I had to save the rest of them until he left. I couldn’t taint our last couple days with sadness over the unavoidable.
I looked up, questioning the sudden tension in his pose. His jaw was tight, and he looked down to our intertwined hands. He took a deep breath.
“What? What’s wrong?” My stomach knotted. Had he waited to drop more bad news on me?
“I know you said that you were going to try to work up here over the summer.”
I nodded. “The housing is cheaper with my tuition. It makes the most sense.”
“I know, but maybe instead of visiting me wherever I get stationed, you could come live with me for the summer.”
I frowned. “But you said you couldn’t live off base. I couldn’t afford it, Cameron.” I hated admitting my financial woes. Such limitations had never existed for him.
“I can’t live off base right now, but I could…”
I tried to finish his thought in my mind, but I knew nothing about the intricacies of the military. Already the institution had more rules than I could fully comprehend.
“We could get married.”
I widened my eyes and dropped my jaw slightly as I sucked in a sharp breath of the cool night air. “Married?” I barely recognized my voice as I said the word. The sound, strained and high, betrayed my panic and ran in stark contrast to how we’d spoken of it hours ago, a far off dream we’d both shared.
“If we got married, I could live off base. We could be together. I’d make plenty of money to support us both until you came back to school. And after, of course.”
The intensity that once hummed between us now hung frozen in the air as I absorbed his words. I struggled to reply, my lips moving wordlessly. Panic seized my lungs. I couldn’t breathe.
This wasn’t how it had happened in my fantasies. We were older, my life was far more stable than it currently was, and I was smiling and crying and jumping to kiss him with one yes after the other pouring from my lips. Yet now I fought a wave of nausea. My vision blurred. The subtle sounds around us muffled behind a jumble of broken thoughts flooding my brain.
“I don’t understand what you’re saying,” I finally said. True enough, I had no idea where this proposal had come from.
He gripped my hands tightly. I was vaguely aware of the dampness of my palms, but my thoughts were too scattered to care.
“Maya, I want to marry you.”
The earlier softness in his voice gave way to determination. He looked at me intently. He was serious. I was scared to death that he was.
“There are logistics with the military, yes, but none of that matters as much as wanting to be married to you. Everything we’ve had this week… I want that forever, to know that nothing can take that away from us.”
“But—” I stumbled over my words, hoping I didn’t look as scared as I felt. “Are you… Do you mean, like, now?”
He paused. “We could do it this weekend, before I leave. Just you and me. We don’t need anyone else.”
I took a small step back and out of his grasp, hoping it would allow me to breathe easier. My chest heaved with labored breaths. My mind had spun straight out of the love coma that we’d been living in for days. For all my loving him, I could not have been more shocked by this.
“I don’t have a ring…” His shoulders sagged.
My uneasiness only grew with the asking in his eyes.
“I don’t care about a ring, Cameron, but this is so sudden. Do you realize what you’re asking me?”
“I know exactly what I’m asking you. Trust me, I’ve thought about little else for weeks. I wanted to ask you the minute I saw you.”
My gaze darted between the ground and buildings in the distance. I needed something to hold my focus, because my thoughts were running rampant.
The future we spoke of seemed a lot closer for him than I’d realized. The dreams we shared were within reach now, but I couldn’t feel anything but crushed emotionally. The warm blanket of the past few days had been ripped away, and I was left with the shock of his request.
“I can’t just run away. I have things I need to take care of. Things here.”
A confused frown marked his brow. “Like what?”
“I don’t know. Work, I guess.” I offered the weak half-truth, not wanting to get into the real reasons why I couldn’t skip town with my would-be husband come May.
“You can find work wherever I am, or don’t worry about it at all. Take the summer off. I’ll be making more and can take care of you, of us.”
As if anything could be that simple.
Frozen, I tried to think of how I could convince him this was rash. Too soon. “I don’t know, Cameron,” I murmured. “I need time to think about this, I guess.”
I chanced a look in his eyes. His jaw was tightly clenched, his whole posture on edge.
“Do you want to marry me or not?” His voice was a mere whisper.
I’d asked for time to think, but this wasn’t a negotiation of terms. This was a moment—one that demanded an answer, not an excuse.
Fine mist swept over my skin, and I fought a new wave of sickness. I couldn’t. It was too much. Too fast. As head over heels as I was, as we both were, I couldn’t go through with it. One day, yes. But I couldn’t say when that would be. He wanted to take care of me, but he’d never really understand the weight I carried.
“I do want to marry you, Cameron. I really honestly do, one day, but not…today. We shouldn’t rush into this.”
“Rush? I’ve spent two months away from you and it’s killing me. I thought you felt the same way.”
I fought the tremble in my hands, wringing my fingers together. With each word, I felt him slip further from me. I stared past him to the pond. The campus had darkened under the night sky. This was my life, and I hadn’t really thought seriously about what it might look like outside of our idle dreaming. He was calling me out on all the promises we’d made, and here I was reneging.
I loved Cameron, but being with him was like being in a dream, a fantasy where I could believe that everything was possible, that everything was going to be okay. But he didn’t know everything. He’d never understand the forces that weighed me down, the battles I fought away from the eyes of my friends here. He’d only known a life of privilege. Security, normalcy, a family that by most standards would be considered perfect. Certainly compared to mine.
I’d hinted about the situation with my mother, but I’d never shared the embarrassing details of how I’d grown up, or how her life had fallen into woeful disrepair since I left for school. What chance would I have with him if he knew who I really was?
“I want to be with you, Cam.” I prayed that could be enough.
“Then marry me. There’s never going to be anyone else for me. This is it.” The look of love in his eyes, the look I’d seen so many times before, left no doubt.
“Marriage?” I shook my head, pleading with him to relent on this dream that I couldn’t give him.
He winced. “You say the word like it makes you sick, Maya.”
“It is making me sick.” I half turned away, wrapping my arms around myself to chase away the chill of the night. He was pushing me so hard. Everything I was saying was disappointing him, hurting him. I hated it. I hated everything about this conversation. I wanted to go home and fall asleep in his arms and wake up as if we’d never had it.
The hurt in his eyes lanced through me. My heart fell.
“You’re telling me no, then.”
I shook my head, my heart breaking. I had no other choice, and I’d never be able to make him understand my reasons. “I can’t.”
“What was this week about?” His voice strained, laced with hurt frustration.
I shrugged, wishing we could forget all this, turn back time, and go back to the place where we were both happy simply being with each other, without this looming expectation that I’d never be able to live up to. “Us, being together, like it’s always been.”
“This is so much more than it’s ever been. You know that. What do I really mean to you? What does any of this mean if, when it comes right down to it, you don’t want to be with me?”
“You’re everything to me, Cameron.”
His hard laugh tore through me. “Apparently not.”
“Stop it.” My voice was watery. My guilt was giving way to despair, and I felt weak and powerless over where this was all going.
“What am I, then?”
“You’re my lover, my friend. I don’t know how I would have gotten through this year without you.” Being with Cameron had given me hope, something to look forward to every weekend before he left. Our all-consuming love held so much promise.
“So I’m a crutch? Someone you can rely on emotionally but don’t really want to commit to?”
I exhaled sharply at his words, my eyes burning with unshed tears. “No.”
“Then what? Explain it to me.”
“This is crazy. You’re being crazy, asking this of me. People don’t do this anymore.”
“I don’t give a shit what people do.” He rubbed his forehead, breathing audibly through clenched teeth. “So this is it?”
My heart thudded against my chest. “What do you mean?”
“This is it, Maya. I can’t…” He shook his head, avoiding my gaze. “You have no idea what I’ve been through. All I’ve thought of is you and this moment. But if this is how you feel, we should stop wasting our time.”
I gasped, panic flooding me. “No.”
I reached for him but he stepped back, raising his hands as if in surrender.
“Let’s talk about this.” He was slipping away. I couldn’t lose him over this.
I could no sooner find the words to make him stay as I could stop the tears from falling free down my face.
“Cameron, wait. Please.”
I suppressed a sob as he turned and walked away without another word.